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Pro Football Focus Lists Riley Leonard as Top-Five Heisman Contender

Notre Dame hasn’t had a Heisman Trophy winner since Tim Brown won the program’s seventh back in 1987 but if Pro Football Focus is to believe, the Fighting Irish will have a player taking dead aim at the sport’s biggest individual award in 2024.

Pro Football Focus listed five players to keep an eye on for the Heisman Trophy and Notre Dame quarterback Riley Leonard snuck into their list.  Here is what they said about the transfer from Duke:

The biggest dark-horse candidate on this list is the incoming Fighting Irish transfer from Duke, Riley Leonard. 

While scouts may not be quite as high on him after a disappointing 2023 season that was cut short by injury, he still has a whole lot of potential as a big, strong-armed QB with plus movement skills. 

Now is the perfect time for Leonard to rebuild his draft stock. He will also be in a great position to do so, playing with a much better offensive line and better receivers on the outside, such as Jordan Faison and tight end Mitchell Evans, who both earned 83.0-plus receiving grades in 2023.

We all know how Leonard can affect the game on the ground, as he averaged 7.3 yards per carry last fall. His 86.5 rushing grade was second only to last year’s Heisman winner, Jayden Daniels.

However, his greatest impact will have to come as a passer if he truly wants to play quarterback at the next level and bring the Irish back to glory. Leonard threw the ball only 167 times on 201 dropbacks last season. We will certainly need to see him air it out more if he wants to win the Heisman.

In an unsurprising move, all five players Pro Football Focus listed play quarterback.  14 of the last 16 players to win the award have played quarterback so it has almost come to be expected.

If they are right and Leonard is a true Heisman Trophy contender in 2024 that should mean that Notre Dame is threatening an undefeated regular season with a chance to make a deep run in the College Football Playoff.

Story originally appeared on Fighting Irish Wire